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Hope Chest

Demythologizing Girlhood in Kate Bernheimer’s Trilogy

Catriona McAra

In this article I position the metaphor of the hope chest at the heart of a trilogy of fairy tale novels, The Complete Tales of Ketzia (2001), The Complete Tales of Merry (2006a) and The Complete Tales of Lucy Gold (2011), by Kate Bernheimer that explore traditions of American girlhood. Deploying psychoanalytic interpretative readings, I investigate the characterization of each of the three sisters. My use of the hope chest (as both a toy and a cultural repository) enables me to offer a fuller picture of the social transition depicted in these novels from childhood into womanhood, and is thus conflated with the idea of the child-woman— a hinge-like cultural figure whom Bernheimer represents metaphorically through boxes of accoutrements containing memories and prophecies. With reference to unpublished interviews with Bernheimer, I support my interpretative reading of her trilogy by invoking and explaining the relevance of literary theories related to caskets.

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Calm Vessels

Cultural Expectations of Pregnant Women in Qatar

Susie Kilshaw, Daniel Miller, Halima Al Tamimi, Faten El-Taher, Mona Mohsen, Nadia Omar, Stella Major and Kristina Sole

This article explores emerging themes from the first stage of ethnographic research investigating pregnancy and loss in Qatar. Issues around the development of foetal personhood, the medical management of the pregnant body and the social role of the pregnant woman are explored. Findings suggest that Qatari women are expected to be calm vessels for their growing baby and should avoid certain foods and behaviours. These ideas of risk avoidance are linked to indigenous knowledge around a mother’s influence on a child’s health and traits. Motherhood holds a particularly important place in Qatari culture and in Islam, and women are ultimately responsible for protecting and promoting fertility and for producing healthy children.

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Dora Verus Dora

Exploding the Myth in Wise Children

Judy Hayden

'A woman attends a funeral. The coffin is lowered into the grave. A man approaches her and says, "He was not your father."' Thus begins a book, On Birth and Madness, by Eric Rhode, an opening reproduced in a review by Angela Carter. In this 'wayward and infuriating book', Carter observes, Rhode is remarkably absorbed by paternity, by Oedipus, by Hamlet and by Freud's LIttle Hans – in a book which ostensibly addresses maternity. Whose child we are, our paternity, Carter counters, is a 'profoundly absurd question' ('Rhode', 202–03).

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“Till I Have Done All That I Can”

An Auxiliary Nurse’s Memories of World War I

Michelle Moravec

The scrapbooks and wartime papers of American Alma A. Clarke reveal how one woman repurposed gendered propaganda during the Great War. Clarke was in France from January 1918 to July 1919 as both a child welfare worker with the Comité franco-américain pour la protection des enfants de la frontier and as an auxiliary nurse in the American Red Cross Military Hospital in Neuilly-sur-Seine. The Great War provided Clarke with new ways to contribute, new arenas in which to share her expertise, and perhaps most importantly, new perspectives on the significance of her contributions to society.

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'A pot of ink that she would come to hate the smell of'

Banishing the Beast in Jerome K. Jerome's New Woman Journalists

Carolyn W. de la L. Oulton

Jerome K. Jerome was the founder and editor of the weekly periodical Today, begun shortly before the media showdown between Sarah Grand and Ouida made the New Woman one of the most demonised constructions of the mid 1890s. In a series of editorials and commissioned articles between 1894 and 1897 the journal explores the range of meanings starting to accrue around this figure. Unlike some of his contributors Jerome notably attacks both the New Woman herself and the reactionary male attitudes he sees as partly responsible for her rebellion. In his later fiction Jerome continues to explore the problem of gender relations. In Tommy & Co. (1904) the eponymous protagonist is (somewhat unconvincingly) unable to tell as a child whether she is male or female. In one of his last novels, All Roads Lead to Calvary (1919), the recent war has further problematised the question of women's proper role.

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Nickianne Moody

The early novels of Elinor Glyn (1864–1943) were very well received for their ‘originality, wit and high spirits’. They were written at the turn of the century when Glyn was in her early 30s in order to solve financial problems and they are acutely observed accounts of the late Victorian and Edwardian marriage market. She contrasts British high society with continental arrangements to manage wives and mistresses and in doing so tentatively begins to explore the place of sexuality within marriage or more significantly the prospect of extramarital liaisons as young brides become mature women. Biographical accounts of Glyn’s career emphasise the surprise and hurt she felt at the response from the press and society acquaintances to Three Weeks (1907) when it was published. Whereas her other novels were seen as humorous and daring, this is the novel that overstepped the mark. Three Weeks became notorious because its focus is not society manners or pre-nuptial morality, but an adulterous affair that is treated sympathetically, almost reverentially by the authoress. Even more controversially, it is an older woman who seduces a younger man, with the intention of conceiving a child. The gender relations regarding class, culture, money, initiative, status, and more specifically power are unequivocally reversed and celebrated in the expression of a mature woman’s sexual pleasure.

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Ghost Mothers

Kinship Relationships in Thai Spirit Cults

Andrew Alan Johnson

This article examines the process of building kinship relations between Thai spirit devotees and violent spirits. I examine three spirit shrines on the outskirts of Bangkok: a shrine to the ghost of a woman killed in childbirth, a shrine to a cobra spirit that causes accidents along a busy highway, and a household shrine to an aborted fetus. The devotees to whom I spoke actively sought out such places known for death in order to ‘adopt’ or ‘become adopted by’ the spirits in those locations—an action that, I argue, allowed for a renegotiation of the devotees’ position vis-à-vis accident and trauma. I suggest that becoming a spirit’s ‘child’ forms a mutually dependent relationship that allows for the domestication of forces outside of oneself.

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John McLeod

More than any other novel of the last fifty years, Sam Selvon's The Lonely Londoners (1956) has emerged as the talismanic literary account of the consequences of postwar migration to Britain. These consequences are well known: Selvon's novel engages with the growing racism of London; the challenge of his characters – Moses, Galahad and others – to find work, accommodation and sustenance (both emotional and material); the defiant attempt to resist prejudice and establish a new, vibrant and cosmopolitan London culture. Yet perhaps the least discussed issue in the novel is Galahad's fatherhood; early in the novel, and only once, a reference is made to the fact that, eight-and-a-half-months after Galahad's arrival, a young woman can be spied pushing a pram through Ladbroke Grove that contains his son. The appearance of this enigmatic child - quickly forgotten by his father, Selvon's novel and its critics - exposes the disruptive and transformative effect on the family by the historical phenomenon of postwar migration.